Ten years and six line up changes later, Long Island’s Taking Back Sunday (TBS) is a model of perseverance. Since their 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends, success for the band has been up and down, and with consistency continuing to be their best friend, the now Adam Lazzara show returns with what could easily be Louder Now part deux. New Again, the group’s fourth studio album, continues to deliver the guitar driven angst that TBS has been turning out since the beginning. The hooks, lyrical patterns, and song writing haven’t changed one bit. For better or worse Taking Back Sunday delivers what they always have: glossy yet bouncy pop rock with adorable bitterness, but goddamn if it isn’t still fun for a few tracks.
The Warner Bros. production stamp is back as Lazzara tells us in the opening titular track that he’s “ready to be new again.” But what that means is just another heartbreak anthem involving his self esteem issues over inner demons and past ex’s. Isn’t it time to move on, pal? When the band began, their adolescent fan base hung on to every note, but now that they’ve grown up (some finally past the drinking age) isn’t it time the music did the same? These are the questions that stunt New Again from being, well, just that. Some may argue that teenagers are a dime a dozen. This is true and quite possibly the band’s only saving grace at this point. Everyone and their mother knows there will forever be hormone raging teenagers ready to soak in the latest melodramatic pop. It’s because of this that the band was able to pull off two gold records in the first place.
Though it’s not all sad and stormy here. Musically, the record seems to be a little lighter in its step, thanks to newly hired axe-man Matt Fazzi picking up where Fred Mascherino (and for that matter, John Nolan) left off. This time around, Fazzi eases up on the overdrive, and the first three tracks run together without so much as a breath to spare in between. It’s not like there’s ever an opportunity really, what with the incessant power chords and chant-a-long moments clogging up the tracks, as is the case with “Sink Into Me”. Following the technique of the Where You Want to Be hit “A Decade Under the Influence”, each member runs circles around the song’s hook, which leave the in-between moments feeling a bit left behind.
However, one thing that keeps the pace is the production. Some serious mixing has stepped up the vocals here. Gone are the awkward moments when Lazzara once reached far and long for those high notes. They learned their lesson with “Bonus Mosh Pit Pt. II”, and this time around they utilize his low growl on tracks like “Lonely Lonely”. The high notes are left up to the new guy as his voice is much cleaner than Mascherino’s raspy notes and this works to create clearer harmonies on tracks like the bitter “Summer, Man”.
As expected with a release of this caliber, there are some tracks here that could have been left on the cutting room floor. “Where My Mouth Is” comes across as the lost brother of “…Slow Dance On The Inside” and “Swing” is the hit or miss, made for T.V. sequel to “Set Phasers to Stun” only it’s more miss than hit. “Cut Me Off Jenny” is standard deluxe, with every moment ripped straight out of the textbook for Saves The Day.
The disappointing reality of this record is that it’s passable, but not by much. You could even go so far as to say that the golden years for these guys have come and gone with the lackluster finish of New Again serving as evidence. The record starts with potential but dwindles by the end to a series of ballads with “Everything Must Go” as the sad send off. If Taking Back Sunday want to salvage their music, they will need to graduate high school (or get their G.E.D.) like the rest of us. If this is any indication, it sounds as though they are at the end of their road and far from the classroom or any school of thought.